John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor, Says that a Second Referendum May be Inevitable

John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, has said in an interview with the BBC that a second vote on Brexit may now be “inevitable”. He said that the Labour Party would prefer a General Election, but said that in the event that the party couldn’t force an election, they would likely be in favour of a second referendum to clear the deadlock.

McDonnell said that he would vote to remain in any second vote, but that he didn’t feel that the outcome would be inevitable. He said to the BBC:

“So, the caution for them and for all of us, whichever argument you put, is the people will decide. As we saw in the last referendum, it’s very difficult to predict which way the people will decide on this. I’ve seen a lot of polls that have said there has been a shift from Leave to Remain. I’ve also seen other polls saying actually we’re just about the same as we were then”.

Theresa May, the Prime Minister, criticised the plan saying that a second vote by the British electorate was “an attempt to overthrow the will of the people”.

Prime Minister Visits Scotland to Promote Brexit Deal

Theresa May, the Prime Minister, has travelled to Scotland in a bid to promote her Brexit deal to the people. The visit is a part of a tour around the country to try and raise awareness of the deal and to explain the benefits and issues with it.

The Prime Minister said in a statement:

“It is a deal that is good for Scottish employers and which will protect jobs. It includes a new free trade area with no tariffs, fees, quantitative restrictions or rules of origin checks—an unprecedented economic relationship that no other major economy has.

At the same time, we will be free to strike our own trade deals around the world – providing even greater opportunity to Scottish exporters. I welcome the strong support which employers have given to the deal and the certainty which it provides.

Crucially, the deal also ensures that we will leave EU programmes that do not work in our interests. So we will be out of the common agricultural policy, which has failed our farmers, and out of the common fisheries policy, which has so tragically failed Scotland’s coastal communities.

At long last, we will be “an independent coastal state” again – taking back full sovereign control over our waters, and free to decide for ourselves who we allow to fish in our waters.

The EU maintained throughout the negotiation process that it wanted to link overall access to markets to access to fisheries. It failed in the withdrawal agreement and it failed again in the political declaration.

I have been robust in defending the interests of Scottish fisherman so far- and I will always be so”.

Jo Johnson Resigns From Government Over Brexit

Jo Johnson, the Minister of State for Transport, has resigned from the Government over Brexit, calling for a second referendum. He said that it wouldn’t be a second vote, but a vote on whether to accept whatever deal is achieved.

Johnson said in a statement:

“Brexit has divided the country. It has divided political parties. And it has divided families too. Although I voted Remain, I have desperately wanted the Government, in which I have been proud to serve, to make a success of Brexit: to reunite our country, our party and, yes, my family too. At times, I believed this was possible. That’s why I voted to start the Article 50 process and for two years have backed the Prime Minister in her efforts to secure the best deal for the country. But it has become increasingly clear to me that the Withdrawal Agreement, which is being finalised in Brussels and Whitehall even as I write, will be a terrible mistake.

Indeed, the choice being presented to the British people is no choice at all. The first option is the one the Government is proposing: an agreement that will leave our country economically weakened, with no say in the EU rules it must follow and years of uncertainty for business. The second option is a “no deal” Brexit that I know as a Transport Minister will inflict untold damage on our nation. To present the nation with a choice between two deeply unattractive outcomes, vassalage and chaos, is a failure of British statecraft on a scale unseen since the Suez crisis. My constituents in Orpington deserve better than this from their Government.

What is now being proposed won’t be anything like what was promised two years ago.

Hopes for “the easiest trade deal in history” have proved to be delusions. Contrary to promises, there is in fact no deal at all on our future trading relationship with the EU which the government can present to the country. Still less anything that offers the “exact same benefits” as the Single Market, as David Davis promised, or the “precise guarantees of frictionless trade” that the Prime Minister assured us would be available. All that is now being finalised is the agreement to pay the EU tens of billions of pounds. All that may be on offer on trade is the potential for an agreement to stay in a temporary customs arrangement while we discuss the possibility of an EU trade deal that all experience shows will take many years to negotiate.

Even if we eventually secure a customs arrangement for trade in goods, it will be bad news for the service sector — for firms in finance, in IT, in communications and digital technology. Maintaining access to EU markets for goods is important, but we are fundamentally a services economy. Many in Orpington, for example, are among the two million Britons employed in financial services, commuting into the centre of London to jobs of all kinds in the City. Countries across the world go to great lengths to attract financial and professional services jobs from our shores. An agreement that sharply reduces access to EU markets for financial services — or leaves us vulnerable to regulatory change over which we will have no influence — will hurt my constituents and damage one of our most successful sectors.

While we wait to negotiate trading terms, the rules of the game will be set solely by the EU. Britain will lose its seat at the table and its ability to amend or vote down rules it opposes. Instead of Britain “taking back control”, we will cede control to other European countries. This democratic deficit inherent in the Prime Minister’s proposal is a travesty of Brexit. When we were told Brexit meant taking back powers for Parliament, no one told my constituents this meant the French parliament and the German parliament, not our own. In these circumstances, we must ask what we are achieving. William Hague once described the goal of Conservative policy as being “in Europe, but not run by Europe”. The government’s proposals will see us out of Europe, yet run by Europe, bound by rules which we will have lost a hand in shaping.

Worse still, there is no real clarity about how this situation will ever end. The proposed Withdrawal Agreement parks many of the biggest issues about our future relationship with Europe into a boundless transitionary period. This is a con on the British people: there is no evidence that the kind of Brexit that we’ve failed to negotiate while we are still members can be magically agreed once the UK has lost its seat at the table. The leverage we have as a full member of the EU will have gone. We will be in a far worse negotiating position than we are today. And we will have still failed to resolve the fundamental questions that are ramping up uncertainties for businesses and stopping them investing for the future.

My brother Boris, who led the leave campaign, is as unhappy with the Government’s proposals as I am. Indeed he recently observed that the proposed arrangements were “substantially worse than staying in the EU”. On that he is unquestionably right. If these negotiations have achieved little else, they have at least united us in fraternal dismay.

The argument that the government will present for the Withdrawal Agreement ‘deal’ is not that it is better for Britain than our current membership. The Prime Minister knows that she cannot honestly make the claim that the deal is an improvement on Britain’s current arrangements with the EU and, to her credit, refuses to do so. The only case she can try to make is that it is better than the alternative of leaving the EU with no deal at all.

Certainly, I know from my own work at the Department of Transport the potential chaos that will follow a “no deal” Brexit. It will cause disruption, delay and deep damage to our economy. There are real questions about how we will be able to guarantee access to fresh food and medicine if the crucial Dover-Calais trade route is clogged up. The government may have to take control of prioritising which lorries and which goods are allowed in and out of the country, an extraordinary and surely unworkable intervention for a government in an advanced capitalist economy. The prospect of Kent becoming the Lorry Park of England is very real in a no deal scenario. Orpington residents bordering Kent face disruption from plans to use the nearby M26, connecting the M25 to the M20, as an additional queuing area for heavy goods vehicles backed up all the way from the channel ports. This prospect alone would be a resigning matter for me as a constituency MP, but it is just a facet of a far greater problem facing the nation.

Yet for all its challenges and for all the real pain it would cause us as we adapt to new barriers to trade with our biggest market, we can ultimately survive these difficulties. I believe it would be a grave mistake for the government to ram through this deal by once again unleashing Project Fear. A “no deal” outcome of this sort may well be better than the never ending purgatory the Prime Minister is offering the country. But my message to my brother and to all Leave campaigners is that inflicting such serious economic and political harm on the country will leave an indelible impression of incompetence in the minds of the public. It cannot be what you wanted nor did the 2016 referendum provide any mandate for it.

Given that the reality of Brexit has turned out to be so far from what was once promised, the democratic thing to do is to give the public the final say. This would not be about re-running the 2016 referendum, but about asking people whether they want to go ahead with Brexit now that we know the deal that is actually available to us, whether we should leave without any deal at all or whether people on balance would rather stick with the deal we already have inside the European Union.

To those who say that is an affront to democracy given the 2016 result, I ask this. Is it more democratic to rely on a three year old vote based on what an idealised Brexit might offer, or to have a vote based on what we know it does actually entail?

A majority of Orpington voters chose to leave the EU in 2016 and many of the close friends I have there, among them hard-working local Conservative Party members, are passionately pro-Brexit. I respect their position. But I know from meetings I have had with local members that many are as dismayed as me by the course of negotiations and about the actual choice now on offer. Two and a half years on, the practical Brexit options are now clear and the public should be asked to choose between the different paths facing our country: we will all have different positions on that choice, but I think many in my local party, in the Orpington constituency and around the country would welcome having the last word on the Government’s Brexit proposals.

Britain stands on the brink of the greatest crisis since the Second World War. My loyalty to my party is undimmed. I have never rebelled on any issue before now. But my duty to my constituents and our great nation has forced me to act. I have today written to the Prime Minister asking her to accept my resignation from the Government. It is now my intention to vote against this Withdrawal Agreement. I reject this false choice between the PM’s deal and “no deal” chaos. On this most crucial of questions, I believe it is entirely right to go back to the people and ask them to confirm their decision to leave the EU and, if they choose to do that, to give them the final say on whether we leave with the Prime Minister’s deal or without it.

To do anything less will do grave damage to our democracy”.

Shock Turnout of Over 650,000 at People’s Vote Rally in London

There has been an unexpectedly high turnout at the People’s Vote Rally in London today, which was initially expected to be attended by around 100,000 people. Estimates from the organisers suggest that the number of attendees is over 650,000 people, many of which are younger voters. A rival Leave Means Leave rally is though to have been attended by just over 1,200 people.

Lord Adonis, a Labour Peer, said:

“This week’s fresh chaos and confusion over Brexit negotiations has exposed how even the best deal now available will be a bad one for Britain”.

Chuka Umunna, the Labour MP for Streatham, said:

“Absolutely fantastic to see such huge numbers at the People’s Vote March. The rally in Parliament Square starting shortly!”

The Prime Minister has yet to comment on the rally.

Prime Ministers Speaks to Business Leaders on Brexit

Theresa May, the Prime Minister, has met with 130 business leaders to put forwards her vision for Brexit. She discussed the progress which had been made in the negotiations and accepted that there were still numerous areas where agreement hadn’t been reached.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said:

“First, she recognised the importance of these discussions for businesses, their supply chains and clients. She outlined that the Government’s proposed future relationship with the EU would preserve the UK’s and EU’s frictionless access to each other’s markets for goods, protecting jobs and livelihoods on both sides.

She set out the significant progress that has been made on the Withdrawal Agreement and on our future relationship with the EU. She acknowledged that there were a few significant issues that were still outstanding, but said that the very real sense she had from leaders around the table at the Council was that they wanted to reach a deal as soon as possible this autumn.

Second, the Prime Minister spoke about the Northern Irish backstop, which is intended to guarantee that – in the unlikely event that there is a delay in bringing into effect our future relationship by the end of the implementation period at the end of December 2020 – there is no return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. If required, this would therefore only be necessary for a temporary period to act as a bridge to the future relationship.

The Prime Minister explained that the UK could not accept the EU’s proposal which included an arrangement in which Northern Ireland could be kept in a separate customs territory to the rest of the UK. She advised that our proposal included a UK-wide joint customs territory with the EU for the duration of the backstop, which would protect the integrity of the UK and deliver on the commitment to avoid a hard border with Ireland. She emphasised that both sides wanted to have our future relationship in place by the end of December 2020 so that the backstop never needed to be used, but that the negotiating teams would work intensively on this to find a way forward.

Finally, she urged businesses not to lose sight of the prize – that of a smooth trading relationship with the EU alongside the ability to seek new opportunities and open up new markets with trading partners around the world.

The Prime Minister took questions from businesses and representative bodies (Centrica, EY, Diageo, Enterprise Nation, RBS, Federation of Small Businesses, ITV, Aston Martin, Barratt Developments and Tesco) on topics such as the importance of frictionless trade, the implementation period and opportunities for the future.

A number of businesses thanked the Prime Minister for the opportunity to speak with her directly on the Brexit negotiations”.

Theresa May Meets Guy Verhofstadt in Downing Street

Theresa May, the Prime Minister, has today met with Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s representative for Brexit, in Downing Street. They discussed the progress being made on Brexit, and also the rights of UK citizens in the EU.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said:

“The Prime Minister gave an update on the negotiations, and on the commitment she gave on Friday to guarantee the rights of the three million EU citizens in the UK in the unlikely event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal. She thanked Guy Verhofstadt for his efforts to engage Member States on the rights of British nationals living in the EU.

They discussed the two key outstanding issues in the negotiations: the future economic partnership and the Northern Ireland backstop. The Prime Minister underlined the need to ensure frictionless trade between the EU and the UK as part of the future relationship in order to find a solution to the Northern Ireland border and maintain the constitutional integrity of the UK. They both agreed that the best solution to the Northern Ireland border would be found through the future relationship.

The Prime Minister confirmed that the government would also bring forward further proposals on the Northern Ireland backstop. They agreed on the need to resolve these ongoing issues in a timely fashion so that the agreements could be discussed and ratified by UK and European Parliaments”.

UK Government Says it has Reached Agreement with Welsh Government on Brexit

David Lidington

David Lidington, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, has confirmed that the UK Government has reached agreement with the Welsh Government on the European Union Withdrawal Bill. The Government has though still to reach agreement with the Scottish Government on the bill, although talks are expected to continue.

Lidington said in a statement:

“I am very pleased that the many months of detailed negotiation have got us to a point where we have now reached an agreement with the Welsh Government on changes to the Bill. This is a significant achievement that will provide legal certainty, increase the powers of the devolved governments and also respect the devolution settlements. The UK Government has made considerable changes to the EU Withdrawal Bill to address issues that have been raised in Parliament and by the devolved administrations

It is disappointing that the Scottish Government have not yet felt able to add their agreement to the new amendments that Ministers and officials on all sides have been working on very hard over recent weeks. I thank them for that effort and hope that they may still reconsider their position. All governments agree that it would be best for all parts of the UK if we had an agreed way forward on the EU Withdrawal Bill”.

Bank of England Governor Says Brexit May Slow Interest Rates Rise

Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, has said that he expects interest rates to rise this year, but that they may be slower because of the impact of Brexit. The markets are expecting a 0.25% rate rise in May, but Carney warned that this wasn’t inevitable.

Carney said:

“The biggest set of economic decisions over the course of the next few years are going to be taken in the Brexit negotiations and whatever deal we end up with. And then we will adjust to the impact of those decisions in order to keep the economy on a stable path”.

Interest rates are currently at 0.5%, but a rise to 0.75% is expected by the end of 2018 in a bid to keep control of inflation. The bank increased interest rates from 0.25% to 0.5% in November 2017, the first increase in a decade.

Pressure Increases on Government Over Brexit Following Defeat in the House of Lords

The Government is under pressure to reconsider leaving the European Customs Union following a large defeat in the House of Lords today. The Government was defeated by a majority of 123 votes, with 348 Lords voting to reopen the Customs Union debate.

Following the vote Keir Starmer, the Shadow Secretary of State for Leaving the European Union, said:

“The passing of this cross-party amendment is an important step forward. Theresa May must now listen to the growing chorus of voices who are urging her to drop her red line on a customs union and rethink her approach”.

Lord Patten of Barnes, the former Conservative Party Chairman, said earlier in a speech in the Lords:

“The first thing we have to do is secure our market in the European Union—50% of our trade. We then have to think about the 12% of trade with countries with which the European Union has concluded agreements already and the 8% with which it is negotiating trade agreements already. That adds up to about 70%. Of the remaining 30%, about half is with the United States, a quarter with China and Hong Kong, and the rest with everyone else”.

Lord Callanan, the Government Minister for Leaving the European Union, said in a speech:

“The nub of the issue is this. If the UK were to remain in the customs union and be bound by the EU’s common external tariff, it would mean providing preferential access to the UK market for countries that the EU agrees trade deals with, without necessarily gaining preferential access for UK exports to such countries. Alternatively, we would need the EU to negotiate with third countries on the UK’s behalf. This would leave us with less influence over our international trade policy than we have now, and would not, in our humble assertion, be in the best interests of UK businesses”.

Jeremy Corbyn Sacks Owen Smith from Shadow Cabinet

Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, has sacked Owen Smith from his position as Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland due to Smith’s article in the Guardian on Brexit. Smith had called in the article for the public to be given a vote on the final deal reached in the Brexit negotiations.

Smith said on Twitter:

“Just been sacked by @jeremycorbyn for my long held views on the damage #Brexit will do to the Good Friday Agreement & the economy of the entire U.K. Those views are shared by Labour members & supporters and I will continue to speak up for them, and in the interest of our country”.

Tony Lloyd has replaced Smith as the Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, moving from his current position as the Shadow Housing Minister.